About the Authors Charles “Chic” Cicero was born in Buffalo, New York. An early love of music and the saxophone resulted in Chic’s many years as a lead musician in several jazz, blues, and rock ensembles, working with many famous performers in the music industry. Chic’s interest in Freemasonry and the Western Esoteric Tradition led him to become a member of several Masonic, Martinist, and Rosicrucian organizations. He is a Past Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar in Florida (2010–2011) and a 9th Degree in the Masonic Rosicrucians (SRICF). He was also a close personal friend and confidant of Dr. Israel Regardie. Having established a Golden Dawn temple in 1977, Chic was one of the key people who helped Regardie resurrect a legitimate, initiatory branch of the Golden Dawn in the United States in the early 1980s. He is currently the G.H. Imperator of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (www.hermeticgoldendawn .org), an international Order with temples in several countries. Sandra “Tabatha” Cicero was born in rural Wisconsin. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts in 1982, Tabatha worked as an entertainer, typesetter, editor, commercial artist, and computer graphics illustrator. She is currently the Supreme Magus (Imperatrix) of the Societas Rosicruciana in America (www.sria.org) as well as the G.H. Cancellaria of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Edited & Annotated by Chic Cicero & Sandra Tabatha Cicero
GOLD ISRAEL REGARDIEâ€™S
LOST BOOK OF
A LC H EM Y Llewellyn Publications Woodbury, Minnesota
Gold: Israel Regardie’s Lost Book of Alchemy © 2015 by Israel Regardie, Chic Cicero, and Sandra Tabatha Cicero. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from Llewellyn Publications, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. First Edition First Printing, 2015 Cover art: 2 285229/©James Steidl/Shutterstock.com 166564175/©Yure/Shutterstock.com Cover design by Kevin R. Brown Interior art credits on page xi Llewellyn Publications is a registered trademark of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Regardie, Israel. Gold : Israel Regardie’s lost book of alchemy / by Israel Regardie, Chic Cicero, and, Sandra Tabatha Cicero. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-7387-4072-0 1. Spirituality—Miscellanea. 2. Alchemy—Religious aspects. 3. Alchemy—Miscellanea. 4. Regardie, Israel. Philosopher’s stone. 5. Alchemy. 6. Regardie, Israel. Tree of life. 7. Magic. 8. Occultism. I. Title. BF1999.R4155 2015 540.1'12—dc23 2014049773 Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. does not participate in, endorse, or have any authority or responsibility concerning private business transactions between our authors and the public. All mail addressed to the author is forwarded but the publisher cannot, unless specifically instructed by the author, give out an address or phone number. Any Internet references contained in this work are current at publication time, but the publisher cannot guarantee that a specific location will continue to be maintained. Please refer to the publisher’s website for links to authors’ websites and other sources. Llewellyn Publications A Division of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd. 2143 Wooddale Drive Woodbury, MN 55125-2989 www.llewellyn.com Printed in the United States of America
Other Books by the Authors By Israel Regardie, Chic Cicero, and Sandra Tabatha Cicero A Garden of Pomegranates: Skrying on the Tree of Life The Middle Pillar: The Balance Between Mind and Magic The Philosopher’s Stone: Spiritual Alchemy, Psychology, and Ritual Magic The Tree of Life: An Illustrated Study in Magic
By Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero Creating Magical Tools: The Magician’s Craft The Essential Golden Dawn: An Introduction to High Magic Experiencing the Kabbalah: A Simple Guide to Spiritual Wholeness The Golden Dawn Enochian Skrying Tarot: Your Complete System for Divination, Skrying, and Ritual Magick, with Bill and Judi Genaw The Golden Dawn Journal: Book I—Divination The Golden Dawn Journal: Book II—Qabalah: Theory and Magic The Golden Dawn Journal: Book III—The Art of Hermes The Golden Dawn Magical System: A Complete Tarot Set Golden Dawn Magical Tarot and Deck The Magical Pantheons: A Golden Dawn Journal The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot: Keys to the Rituals, Symbols, Magic, and Divination Ritual Use of Magical Tools: The Magician’s Art Secrets of a Golden Dawn Temple Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition: A Complete Curriculum of Study for Both the Solitary Magician and the Working Magical Group Tarot Talismans: Invoke the Angels of the Tarot
By Sandra Tabatha Cicero The Babylonian Tarot The Book of the Concourse of the Watchtowers
To Donald Michael Kraig with much love and appreciation for your work and friendship
Contents List of Illustrations................................................................. xi Foreword by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero.......... xiii Introduction to Regardie’s Text by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero.................................................... 1 Gold by Israel Regardie................................................................ 21 Introduction........................................................................... 23 The True Book of the Learned Greek Abbot Synesius Taken Out of the Emperor’s Library.............................. 31 Chapter One: Alchemy and Psychology..................................... 43 Chapter Two: The Universal Agent, Polarity, and the Collective Unconscious...................................................... 57 Chapter Three: The Mystical Experience................................... 71 Chapter Four: The Great Work.................................................. 89 Chapter Five: The Secret Fire................................................... 109 Chapter Six: Magnetism, Visualization, and Healing.............. 125 Chapter Seven: Alchemical Symbolism and the Aura............. 139 Chapter Eight: In Conclusion................................................... 151 Appendix I: The Art of True Healing.................................. 167 Appendix II: Correspondences for Healing Rituals........... 193 Glossary................................................................................ 205 Bibliography......................................................................... 235 Index..................................................................................... 241
Illustrations Hermes Trismegistus and the Book of Knowledge is a woodcut of the title page of Zadith ben Hamuel’s De chemica Senioris …, Strasburg: 1566................................................ 22 Title Page of Basil Valentine’s The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony is courtesy of the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (1386–582)............................ 30 Osiris by the Llewellyn Art Department..................................... 47 Sun and Moon from the The Rosarium Philosophorum, Frankfurt: 1550......................................................................... 60 Buddha by the Llewellyn Art Department.................................. 75 Mercury from the Second Key of “The Twelve Keys of Basil Valentine,” engraved by Matthaeus Merian (1593–1650), published in the collection “Musaeum hermeticum,” Francofurti: Apud Hermannum à Sande, 1678....................... 93 Venus from Pictorial Archive of Decorative Renaissance Woodcuts by Jost Amman (NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 1968)................................................................................ 117 Winged Dragon Eating Its Own Tail from the Alchemical and Occult Collection (CD)................................................... 141 The Human Aura by Mary Ann Zapalac................................... 146 The Middle Pillar by Mary Ann Zapalac................................... 173
FOREWORD by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero
rancis” Israel Regardie (1907–1985) was the author of several notable books on ceremonial magic. Although he was born in England, he spent most of his life in the United States. As a young man, Regardie studied every text on magic and mysticism that he could get his hands on. In 1932, Regardie was a twenty-five-year-old published author, with two of his most important books in print that year: A Garden of Pomegranates, which describes the mystical system known as the Qabalah, and The Tree of Life, a comprehensive textbook covering virtually every aspect of magic from the perspective of a practicing magician. This later book is still considered to be Regardie’s magnum opus. Publication of The Tree of Life brought Regardie an invitation into the Stella Matutina, the most viable remaining offshoot of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. He was initiated into the order in January of 1933 and made rapid progress through the grades. However, Regardie was very disappointed with the state of affairs within the group. He left the Stella Matutina at the end of 1934, having concluded that much of the order’s teachings would soon be lost due to neglect. Three years later, he published much of the order’s teachings in four volumes titled The Golden Dawn. This was a game-changing event in the world of ceremonial magic.
xiv • gold: israel regardie’s lost book of alchemy
In 1938, Regardie published The Philosopher’s Stone, a work on spiritual alchemy. At the time of its writing, Regardie was convinced that medieval alchemy was a thinly veiled psycho-spiritual process— that the laboratory operations of alchemy said to work on various substances in order to change “lead into gold” were in reality focused solely on man’s mind, soul, and spirit. The manuscript of Gold was written sometime between 1938 and 1941, as indicated by the date at the end of the original introduction. The subject of Gold, like The Philosopher’s Stone, is spiritual alchemy. However, Gold takes up exactly where the earlier book left off, comparing the Great Work of alchemy to the goals of Eastern mysticism—samadhi of yoga and satori of Zen Buddhism. It was during this period that Regardie immersed himself in the study of psychology and psychotherapy, a fact that is clearly evident in Gold. We were presented with this unpublished Regardie manuscript by a source who wishes to remain anonymous. The lone copy of this text was damaged, and because of the poor condition of the paper, it was necessary to reconstruct one or two sentences. Such occurrences are very minimal, however, and are clearly indicated in our footnotes. Israel Regardie is often credited as the person most responsible for removing the veil of secrecy surrounding ceremonial magic and Western occultism. For decades, students have appreciated Regardie’s expertise and wisdom. His reader-friendly style of writing is a cherished hallmark of all his works. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that we present Gold. We have no doubt that Regardie’s fans will come to cherish this little treasure as much as we do. —Chic Cicero & Sandra Tabatha Cicero Metatron House Autumnal Equinox 2013
INTRODUCTION TO REGARDIE’S TEXT by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero
Quintessence, which is a virtue or power that is imperishable, permanent, and perpetually victorious, nay it is a clear light, which sheds true goodness into every Soul that once has tasted of it. It is the knot and link of all the Elements, which it contains in itself, as being also the Spirit which nourishes all things, and by the assistance whereof Nature works in the Universe. […] Know then, my dear Son, that the ignorant man cannot comprehend the secret of the Art, because it depends upon the Knowledge of the true Body, which is hidden from him. —from the true book of the learned greek abbot synesius (by anonymous)
he history of alchemy is a tale of knowledge discovered, nearly lost, rediscovered, and reinterpreted. The “Royal Art,” the “Hermetic Art, and “the Philosophy of the Wise” are just a few of the epithets associated with the spiritual science of alchemy, a word composed of the Arabic words al and khemi, referring to “the Egyptian matter.” Alchemy 1
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traces its roots to Bronze Age Egypt, where the prevailing religious beliefs and practices surrounding mummification led to an elementary understanding of chemistry, which in turn became linked to magic and the concept of eternal life. Beginning in the sixth century BCE, Greek philosophers such as Heracleitus, Pythagoras, Aristotle, and Plato began to incorporate alchemical ideas into their teachings. Over time, Greek thought and Egyptian spirituality merged into Hermeticism and Neo-Platonic philosophy, which spread across the Greek-speaking world. Some of the earliest surviving texts on alchemy, including works by Zosimos of Panoplis, date from the Hellenistic period (roughly 300 BCE–300 CE). In legend, the founder of alchemy was reputed to be none other than the fabled master Hermes Trismegistus. “Hermes the Thrice Great” was said to be an ancient Egyptian priest and magician credited with writing forty-two books collectively known as the Hermetic literature. These books, including the Emerald Tablet and the Divine Pymander, describe the creation of the universe, the soul of humanity, and the way to achieve spiritual rebirth. In the latter stages of the Roman Empire, alchemical principles found their way into works by Plotinus and Proclus. However, by the fourth and fifth centuries, the Church’s persecution of all non-Christian religions and pagan academies resulted in scholars fleeing en masse into Persia. An important school founded in the city of Harran during this time was instrumental in preserving all manner of Hellenistic knowledge. After the Muslim conquest of Egypt in the seventh century, the Arabs absorbed the knowledge of the Alexandrian alchemists and carefully preserved many Greek and Arabic texts on the subject. Thus the Islamic world became the caretaker of the alchemical arts and all other ancient sciences, which they brought to Spain in the eighth century. From the ninth to the eleventh century, Spain became a repository of alchemical knowledge; notable Arabic alchemists included Jabir ibn Hayyan (known by the Latinized name “Geber”) and Ibn Sina (“Avicenna”). The Crusades, as well as the Christian reclamation of Moorish Spain, brought the knowledge of alchemy back into Europe, and a good
Introduction to Regardie’s Text • 3
number of alchemical texts were translated from Arabic into Latin. Important medieval alchemists who benefited from having access to this information included Albertus Magnus, or “Albert the Great” (1200– 1280), the most prolific author of his day and a champion of natural science; Englishman Roger Bacon (1220–1292), a chief advocate of experimental science in the Middle Ages; and Frenchman Nicolas Flamel (1330–1418), who studied astrology and Qabalah in addition to alchemy. Other scholars such as Raymond Lully (1235–1315) and Arnold of Villanova (1235–1311) probed the spiritual side of alchemy. The Renaissance period was the golden age of European alchemy. It was during this time that Cosimo de’ Medici commissioned Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499) to translate the Corpus Hermeticum. The works of Hermes Trismegistus were considered so important that Ficino had to put aside translation of the entire works of Plato until after the Corpus Hermeticum had been tackled. Another Renaissance figure, Basilius Valentinus (or Basil Valentine), wrote several important treatises including The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony (1604) and The Twelve Keys (1599). Possibly the greatest alchemist of all was German-Swiss physician Paracelsus (1493–1541), who maintained the Hermetic view that human life was inseparable from the life of the cosmos. Paracelsus is credited with starting what would later become the science of pharmacology. By the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, alchemists and philosophers such as John Dee, Robert Fludd, Jean Baptiste van Helmont, and Sir Isaac Newton were regularly studying the practical and mystical aspects of the spagyric art. However, by the eighteenth century the once-revered science was being steadily usurped by its prodigy— interest in alchemy declined as modern chemistry gained popularity and respect. In time, only mystics sought out alchemy’s hidden wisdom. To the general public, alchemy became unfairly tarnished as a primitive pseudo-science. What is alchemy? The “separative art” is an early form of sacred chemistry that explores the nature of various substances. It is a multifaceted natural science–philosophy rooted in a spiritual worldview in which everything in the cosmos contains a universal spirit that is the origin of all matter, which is a living thing. Alchemy teaches that by
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combining the four basic qualities of living matter (earth, fire, air, and water) in certain ratios, the alchemist can “speed up” the processes of nature, with the goal of perfecting and transforming a substance to its highest possible potential as a universal medicine, the elixir of life, or the Philosopher’s Stone. At its core, alchemy is concerned with purification, transformation, and growth. Its objective is to bring all things, especially humanity, to their preordained state of perfection. Alchemy has always had a dual nature and two lines of approach. Practical alchemy is concerned with transforming a base material into a higher, more purified substance, such as the turning of lead or a lesser metal into gold, or the extraction of a medicinal substance from a plant in order to create a healing elixir. This is the type of alchemy readers traditionally think of when they encounter the term—a laboratory stocked with furnaces, bellows, stills, condensers, and glass beakers. While many alchemists worked in a lab, the principal interest of many alchemical philosophers was spiritual. These alchemists did not look merely for the substance of gold; they sought to give the quality of gold to their own being, to transmute the base metals—the gross and impure parts of their own nature—into spiritual gold, or divine wisdom. Spiritual or inner alchemy is concerned with the transformation of the human soul from a state of baseness to one of spiritual enlightenment. In mystical terms, alchemy is symbolic of a conversion from the heavy, leaden, physical, earthbound consciousness to the refined gold of the divinely inspired being. It creates a road map of the internal energies that can affect the purification of body, mind, and soul. The goal of alchemy is called the Magnum Opus, or the “Great Work.” This refers to the purification and evolution of something lesser and baser into something greater and more exalted—whether the practitioner is working with metals, vegetable matter, or human consciousness. The process of alchemy is often symbolized by the transformation of lead, the darkest, heaviest, and least valuable of the metals, into pure gold, the most brilliant and valuable of metals. The classical texts of alchemy are rich in symbolism and allegory. Some of these books contained little more than alchemical prints and
Introduction to Regardie’s Text • 5
illustrations. Others had few illustrations but were filled with cryptic language, enigmatic rhymes, and perplexing metaphors and allegories. The practical reason usually given for this coded language is that the alchemists wished to hide their laboratory techniques from those who would profane the sacred art. However, it was also thought that only those who were spiritually pure could decode the message and unlock the divine secrets of the art. “Alchemy is not merely an art or science to teach metallic transmutation, so much as a true and solid science that teaches how to know the center of all things, which in the divine language is called the Spirit of Life.” 1 Alchemy has gained popularity in recent years through the works of Swiss psychologist Carl G. Jung, who construed alchemy as an age-old method of psychological transformation clothed in the terminology of metalworking. The system developed by Jung, known as analytical psychology, became one of the most common mechanisms for the interpretation of occult phenomena in the twentieth century. The main thrust behind Jungian psychology is that all occult and religious phenomena are psychological in nature and are connected to the relationship between the individual and the realm of the collective unconscious. The primary inhabitants of the collective unconscious are the archetypes—pre-existent ideas or basic categories of human awareness. They are centers of psychological energy that tend to surface in human consciousness through similar forms and images. These images are timeless and universal. Jung was intrigued by the fate of Austrian psychoanalyst Herbert Silberer, whose magnum opus, Problems of Mysticism and Its Symbolism (1917), 2 represented the first serious attempt to correlate the methods of psychoanalysis with the literature of alchemy, Rosicrucianism, and Freemasonry. Unfortunately, Silberer’s work was thoroughly rejected by his mentor Sigmund Freud and he later committed suicide because of it. 1. P ierre-Jean Fabre, L’abregé des secrets chymiques (1636), quoted in Stanislas Klossowski de Rola, Alchemy: The Secret Art (New York: Bounty Books, 1973), 8. 2. D r. Herbert Silberer, Problems of Mysticism and Its Symbolism (New York: Moffat, Yard and Company, 1917); republished as Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts (New York: Dover Publications, 1971).
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Jung was influenced by the work of Silberer and the fact that alchemical symbolism kept appearing in the dreams of patients who had no knowledge of alchemy at all. Jung came to believe that these symbols originated from the collective unconscious of humanity, and that the work of alchemy was a process of individuation, or self-realization toward a fully integrated personality. In 1926, Jung had a remarkable dream in which he saw himself as a seventeenth-century alchemist engaged in the Great Work. This dream led Jung to a revelation that alchemy was a connecting link between the spiritual wisdom of the ancient Gnostics and the modern science of psychology. Jung described his revelation in his autobiography: [Alchemy] represented the historical link with Gnosticism, and […] a continuity therefore existed between past and present. Grounded in the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages, alchemy formed the bridge on the one hand into the past, to Gnosticism, and on the other into the future, to the modern psychology of the unconscious. First I had to find evidence for the historical prefiguration of my own inner experiences. That is to say, I had to ask myself, “Where have my particular premises already occurred in history?” If I had not succeeded in finding such evidence, I would never have been able to substantiate my ideas. Therefore, my encounter with alchemy was decisive for me, […] Only by discovering alchemy have I clearly understood that the Unconscious is a process and that ego’s rapports with the unconscious and his contents initiate an evolution, more precisely a real metamorphoses of the psyche.3
Beginning in the 1940s, much of Jung’s work focused on the psychological implications of alchemy as revealed in his text Psychology and Alchemy (1944). Jung’s view became very popular, particularly in the twentieth century, because it provided a way for alchemy to be explored in a manner that did not directly contradict the theorems and principles of modern science. As a result, alchemical symbols, metaphors, and concepts have been extensively adopted into a wide vari3. C arl G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, edited by Aniela Jaffé, translated by Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Vintage Books, 1963), 192–193, 200.
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ety of psychological and spiritual endeavors in ways that the medieval alchemists could have scarcely imagined. In a series of filmed interviews he gave in 1957, Jung reiterated his basic alchemical theory: Of course I cannot tell you in detail about alchemy. It is the basis of our modern way of conceiving things, and therefore it is as if it were right under the threshold of consciousness. It gives you a wonderful picture of how the development of archetypes, the movement of archetypes, looks when you see them as if from above. From today you look back into the past, and you see how the present moment has evolved out of the past. Alchemical philosophy—it sounds very curious. We should give it an entirely different name. It does have a different name, it is called Hermetic philosophy, though of course that conveys just as little as the term alchemy. It is the parallel development, as Gnosticism was, to the conscious development of Christianity, of our Christian philosophy, of the whole psychology of the Middle Ages.4
Israel Regardie’s education in alchemy began early. In 1926, the same year that Jung dsreamt he was an alchemist, a nineteen year-old Regardie joined the Washington College of the Societas Rosicruciana in America, where he studied many aspects of Hermetic philosophy. By the end of 1929, Regardie was living in London. At this time he was “studying mysticism in all its phases, branches and variations.”5 Having served for a time as Aleister Crowley’s secretary in Paris, Regardie became an esoteric author in his own right with the publication of A Garden of Pomegranates and The Tree of Life in 1932. Publication of the latter opened the way for Regardie’s initiation and advancement into various grades of the Stella Matutina. After leaving the order in 1934, Regardie continued to study and write books, including The Golden Dawn (1937), The Art of True Healing (1937), and The Philosopher’s Stone (1938).
4. T ranscripts of these interviews were published in Conversations with Carl Jung and Reactions from Ernest Jones by Richard I. Evans (Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1964). 5. I srael Regardie, The Eye in the Triangle: An Interpretation of Aleister Crowley (Las Vegas, NV: Falcon Press, 1989), p. 6.
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The study of the human psyche was also a subject that was close to Regardie’s heart. He underwent a lengthy Freudian analysis and studied psychotherapy with Dr. E. Clegg and Dr. Laurence J. Bendit in London. In 1937, Regardie returned to the United States and turned his attention to psychology. He studied with Dr. Nandor Fodor in New York and entered the Columbia Institute of Chiropractic (CIC, today’s New York Chiropractic College), graduating in 1941 with a doctorate in psychology. In his application to the CIC, Regardie wrote: Since 1931 I have done a good deal of journalism on philosophical and psychological topics, and have written eight books, five of which so far have been published. […] I had read widely on Psycho-Analysis and Analytical Psychology. In 1935 I began studying it from a practical point of view, and have received about 150 hours of analysis with three leading Harley and Wimpole Street psychologists. I practiced Massage in London for two years under London County Council license. […] Was trained in hypnotic procedure by the superintendent of an English mental hospital and by a private practitioner. I have used, as a lay practitioner, both the methods of Analytical Psychology and hypnosis ever since.6
After graduating, Regardie established a clinical practice and taught anatomy for a time while at CIC before enlisting in the United States Army in 1942. In 1944, he relocated to California and set up practice as a chiropractor and a Reichian therapist. He also taught psychiatry at the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic. During this time he contributed articles to various psychology magazines, including the American Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychiatric Quarterly. Regardie’s first text on alchemy, The Philosopher’s Stone, was written over a two-week period in the winter of 1936–37 when he was bedridden in London with a severe bout of bronchitis. To make the best use of this time, he was determined to tackle a lengthy and difficult text on alchemy, Mary Anne Atwood’s A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery (1850), which documented the enormous impact of Hermetic 6. N icholas T. Popadiuk et al., “From the Occult to Chiropractic Psychiatry: Francis Israel Regardie, D.C.,” Chiropractic History 27, no. 2 (2007): 39.
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philosophy on human spirituality. The essence of Atwood’s hypothesis was that alchemy was actually a method for transforming the human soul through altered states of consciousness, and that all mention of metals, minerals, and alchemical processes were merely symbols and metaphors for spiritual alchemy. It was during his illness, spent studying Atwood, that Regardie experienced his eureka moment concerning alchemy. He was convinced that alchemy was in reality a thinly veiled psycho-spiritual process, and that all alchemical operations concerning the transmutation of various substances were focused solely on man’s mind, soul, and spirit. In other words, “practical” laboratory alchemy was simply wrong-headed, and only theoretical, spiritual, or psychological alchemy was valid. In The Philosopher’s Stone, Regardie admitted that while a certain number of alchemical texts could be construed as having a literal, “primitively chemical” interpretation, he was adamant that alchemical writings should be “interpreted solely in terms of psychological and mystical terms.” At this period in his life, Regardie felt that laboratory alchemy was at best a blind that veiled sublime spiritual truths through symbolism, and at worst a shell game perpetrated by “puffers.” In The Philosopher’s Stone, Regardie presents three seventeenthcentury alchemical treatises—“The Golden Treatise of Hermes,” “The Six Keys of Eudoxus,” and “Coelum Terrae”—documents infused with riddles and emblematic language used to communicate to fellow alchemists in secret. In the intervening chapters, Regardie skillfully pulls the psychological import from the symbols and metaphors of these three cryptic texts, drawing upon his own inspiration as well as knowledge gained though the writings of Silberer, Jung, and others. His approach was to analyze these seventeenth-century texts emblematically, using the symbol systems of magic, Qabalah, and Jungian psychology to explain how the laboratory operations of alchemy were really psychoanalytical methods for self-realization and spiritual attainment. Gold, written between 1938 and 1941, is a direct follow-up to The Philosopher’s Stone, containing many of the same assertions about alchemy. In the present book, which might well be called called “Volume
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Two” of The Philosopher’s Stone, Regardie continues to shed light on the psycho-spiritual meaning behind the cryptograms of the spagyric art. This time, only one alchemical treatise is presented for dissection and analysis, The True Book of the Learned Synesius, a Greek Abbot, Taken Out of the Emperour’s Library, Concerning the Philosopher’s Stone, written by an anonymous alchemist who could not have been Synesius of Cyrene, bishop of Ptolemais. As in his previous book, Regardie discusses this treatise in the language of Jungian psycho-analysis, magnetism, and hypnosis. But here the discussion is more specific, with Regardie citing his own experiences as a therapist, as well as some examples from pioneers in hypnosis and the study of the human aura. He also explores the similarities between alchemy, Taoist philosophy, yoga, and Zen Buddhism. Approximately thirty years after writing The Philosopher’s Stone and Gold, Regardie completely reversed his thinking about laboratory alchemy. This change of heart was a result of his having attended a seminar by Albert Riedel, acclaimed founder of the Paracelsus Research Society in Salt Lake City, Utah, which offered instructional courses in practical alchemy. The work of Frater Albertus, as Riedel was known, was instrumental in reviving the laboratory practice of alchemy in the latter half of the twentieth century. In his introduction to the second edition of The Philosopher’s Stone, Regardie describes his meeting with Albertus and his next eureka moment concerning alchemy: It took only a few minutes to realize that I was talking to the first person I had ever met who knew what he was talking about on the subject of Alchemy. We promised to keep in touch—and we did. This promise later eventuated in an invitation to attend a seminar on Alchemy that he was conducting at the newly instituted Paracelsus Research Society in Salt Lake City. Most of the material presented in the Seminar concerned Alchemy, Qabalah, Astrology, etc.—with which I was already theoretically familiar—though even there some radically new and stimulating viewpoints were obtained. But the piece-de-resistance was the laboratory work. Here I was wholly dumbfounded.
Introduction to Regardie’s Text • 11 It took no more than a few minutes to help me realize how presumptuous I had been to assert dogmatically that all Alchemy was psycho-spiritual. What I witnessed there, and have since repeated, has sufficed to enable me to state categorically that, in insisting solely on a mystical interpretation of Alchemy, I had done a grave disservice to the ancient sages and philosophers.7
Admitting that he had to eat crow with regard to his previously held beliefs, Regardie was happy to do so, although he decided against rewriting his earlier texts on alchemy. Nevertheless, he still felt that a mystical and psychological interpretation of some alchemical texts was legitimate. “There is unequivocally this aspect of the subject.” Some alchemical texts “cannot be interpreted except in these terms.” 8 Therefore, he let his original texts on spiritual alchemy stand as they had been written and suggested that students supplement their readings with alchemical texts “of more recent vintage.” This continues to be good advice. Today there are several good books on practical alchemy, which is undeniably an important part of the hermetic art. Should students be inclined to learn more about the laboratory methods of alchemical work, they should consult The Alchemist’s Handbook by Frater Albertus, The Practical Handbook of Plant Alchemy by Manfred Junius, The Path of Alchemy by Mark Stavish, and Real Alchemy and The Way of the Crucible by Robert Allen Bartlett. Additionally, articles by practicing alchemists are included in the second half of the latest edition of Regardie’s The Philosopher’s Stone: Spiritual Alchemy, Psychology, and Ritual Magic. Why has Gold not been published until now? The manuscript has been held in the hands of a friend of Regardie for several years. By the time Regardie wrote the second introduction to his classic text The Golden Dawn in 1968, his interaction with the Paracelsus Research Society caused him to drastically rethink his belief that practical laboratory alchemy was specious. He was absolutely stunned at the revelation that alchemy was a bona fide physical science and not merely a 7. I srael Regardie, The Philosopher’s Stone: Spiritual Alchemy, Psychology, and Ritual Magic (Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2013), 17–18. 8. Ibid.
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metaphoric structure for mysticism. Since Regardie no longer agreed with his previous approach to the subject of alchemy, he no longer wished to see Gold published. Thus the manuscript remained locked away in a drawer for decades. However, with the passage of time, the owner of the document realized the inherent value of Regardie’s original thoughts, and while the psycho-spiritual approach to alchemy was certainly not the only way to tackle the spagyric art, the alchemical information as well as the Jungian approach presented in Gold was still valid, vital, lucid, and practical. Rather than let this important book continue to crumble away into dust, the owner decided to let it be published and made available to interested readers, students of alchemy, and admirers of Regardie’s writings. So when we were contacted by the document’s steward, we were thrilled and honored to be able to serve the esoteric community by saving this significant text. The subject of Gold is spiritual alchemy, an important topic in its own right. Although Regardie was wrong in his initial assessment of laboratory alchemy, he was right to lavish high praise on inner alchemy. A spiritual alchemist is the subject of his own alchemical experiments; he analyzes, identifies, or separates the various parts of his own psychic makeup. Nothing can remain repressed or shoved into the cellar of the subconscious mind. No portion of the psyche can remain buried. The tools and substances described in alchemy represent the various states of consciousness and the methods for achieving them. The alchemical metals of lead, iron, copper, tin, mercury, silver, and gold, as well as other substances enshrined in alchemical literature, are emblems of the numerous life experiences the soul must endure in order to build a worthy spiritual body—a sturdy vehicle for the Divine Light. The internal quest for the Stone of the Wise brings us to the crossroads of science and religion—to the junction between the mind and the soul. And it is here that we find the connection that exists between ancient magic and modern-day psychology. Franz Hartmann put it this way:
Introduction to Regardie’s Text • 13 Alchemy is that science which results from a knowledge of God, Nature, and Man. A perfect knowledge of either of them cannot be obtained without the knowledge of the other two, for these three are one and inseparable. Alchemy is not merely an intellectual, but a spiritual science; because that which belongs to the spirit can only be spiritually known. Nevertheless, it is a science dealing with material things, for spirit and matter are only two opposite manifestations or “poles” of the eternal one. Alchemy is an art, and as every art requires an artist to exercise it, likewise this divine science and art can be practiced only by those who are in possession of the divine power necessary for that purpose. It is true that the external manipulations required for the production of certain alchemical preparations may, like an ordinary chemical process, be taught to anybody capable of reasoning; but the results which he would accomplish would be without life, for only he in whom the true life has awakened can awaken it from its sleep in the prima materia, and cause visible forms to grow from the Chaos of nature. Alchemy in its highest aspects deals with the spiritual regeneration of man.9
Changes Made to Regardie’s Text As we pointed out in the foreword, the only surviving copy of Gold was in poor condition, and as a result one sentence had to be reconstructed as indicated in the relevant footnote. Gold, like Regardie’s other early works, featured Qabalistic words written with an Ashkenazic dialect. This is a form of Hebrew pronunciation used in central Europe wherein the Hebrew letter tau, or tav, is sometimes pronounced as an “s” rather than a “t” or “th.” Although Ashkenazic may have been the Hebrew pronunciation that Regardie grew up with, and was probably the dialect spoken by his Hebrew tutor in the early 1920s, it was not the dialect preferred by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and its offshoots, all of which employed the more common Sephardic, or Mediterranean dialect. The Sephardic version is used almost exclusively by Western magicians today. With this in mind, we have changed Sephiros to Sephiroth, Keser to Kether, Daas to 9. F ranz Hartmann, In the Pronaos of the Temple of Wisdom (Kila, MT: Kessinger Publishing, n.d.), 85. Originally published in 1890.
14 • gold: israel regardie’s lost book of alchemy
Daath, Tiphares to Tiphareth, Malkus to Malkuth, and so on, to reflect the modern usage. In his later years, Regardie also turned to Sephardic spellings and pronunciations, so we are confident that he would have approved of these changes to his text. Explanatory titles have been added to the various chapters that Regardie had originally listed as numbered “commentaries.” Because of this change, readers will have a better preview of what is contained within the chapters. Additionally, all British spellings have been changed to American, which, in the original manuscript, were not consistently one way or the other. Readers should note that Regardie’s use of the term “man” or “men” to represent humanity as a whole was common for the time period in which Gold was written and was not intended to be sexist or to refer only to males. It was conventional for authors of Regardie’s era to use these terms to reference all humankind, regardless of gender. The following is a description of the various chapters and sections of Gold. Regardie’s Introduction examines claims and theories around the authorship of The True Book of the Learned Greek Abbot Synesius, as well as the social and spiritual environment in which the book was written. Following the Introduction, The True Book of the Learned Synesius, a Greek Abbot, Taken Out of the Emperour’s Library, Concerning the Philosopher’s Stone is given in its entirety. Chapter One: Alchemy and Psychology continues the discussion that Regardie started in his book The Philosopher’s Stone concerning what he believed to be the true nature of alchemy and its relation to spirituality, philosophy, and psychology. To be concise, Regardie thought that descriptions of chemical operations in alchemy constituted a smoke screen designed to conceal the real subject of the Royal Art: the human mind: “Since the advent of modern psychological knowledge,” he writes, “we have been given a key to the understanding of myths, epics, legends and dreams of every kind … It is to this
Introduction to Regardie’s Text • 15
branch of scientific research that we must first turn in seeking an elucidation of the enigmas and obscurities of the alchemical works.” Chapter Two: The Universal Agent, Polarity, and the Collective Unconscious examines the animating principle of the universe known by many names: Spirit, Mercury of the Wise, anima mundi, First Matter, Quintessence, etc. This Agent is divided into the two great universal polarities of masculine and feminine within the processes of alchemy, just as it is within the human psyche. Chapter Three: The Mystical Experience explores the one thing that lies “at the foundation of every great religion” and is shared by mystics the world over, regardless of which faith they ascribe to: enlightenment, illumination, or union with God. Visualization, devotional exercises, and prayer are cited as some of the techniques whereby the mystic can achieve this state of mind, with particular emphasis on the experience of satori in Zen Buddhism. Chapter Four: The Great Work investigates the various processes that the alchemist must undergo in order to complete the Great Work of integration. Awareness of this Living Mercury must be “widened, enhanced and heightened.” This is neither an easy nor a quick process. Chapter Five: The Secret Fire examines how alchemical change is accomplished in the human psyche, mainly through harnessing and directing the spiritual forces of the libido, “the power and active side of the psyche, the energy which must be released from the primordial deeps.” Through conscious effort, training, and voluntary disintegration, the mind’s root essence is laid bare and the “libido or vital stress normally resident in the Unconscious is activated, welling up to the surface to heat or stir up the contents of the mind.” Chapter Six: Magnetism, Visualization, and Healing looks at the manipulation of vital life force using mesmerism, hypnotism, relaxation, and the concerted use of the imagination and will. Chapter Seven: Alchemical Symbolism and the Aura explores the rich symbology that fills the pages of alchemical treatises such as The True Book of Synesius. Implications of alchemical color symbolism and the color attributions of the planets are examined with special
16 • gold: israel regardie’s lost book of alchemy
regard to how these symbols can be used to effect change within the human aura. Chapter Eight: In Conclusion summarizes Regardie’s analysis of all the preceding chapters in plain language, stripped of its alchemical symbolism and metaphor. The sections that follow contain elements that we have added to supplement Regardie’s text of Gold, beginning with Appendix I: The Art of True Healing. In chapter six, Regardie mentions a meditative method that he had developed for the control and transmission of vital life force—a therapeutic technique that could be utilized for healing oneself as well as others. Regardie published this in 1937 in a little book called The Art of True Healing: A Treatise on the Mechanism of Prayer, and the Operation of the Law of Attraction in Nature.10 This text provides a practical application of the principles discussed in Gold, particularly with regard to the conscious manipulation of the Secret Fire in spiritual alchemy. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to add this paper as an appendix to the present book. The version of The Art of True Healing provided here is taken straight from the author’s personal copy, signed “I Regardie, advance copy, April 1st, 1937. 11 am,” complete with Regardie’s own corrections penciled in the margins. It is also much shorter than later versions of this paper. Nevertheless, Regardie’s ingenuity shines through even in this early version. The Art of True Healing provides readers with a healing ritual based on the Middle Pillar exercise, a Golden Dawn method for charging energy centers within the aura. Regardie, more than any other individual, saw the vast potential of the Middle Pillar exercise that was given, albeit in an incomplete form, in the papers of the Stella Matutina. He realized that this simple ritual could be adapted for a variety of exercises with different levels of complexity and purpose, and consequently provided an outline of his therapeutic technique in The Art of True Healing. It is through rituals and exercises like this that students can accomplish the internal work of spiritual alchemy. 10. I srael Regardie, The Art of True Healing: A Treatise on the Mechanism of Prayer, and the Operation of the Law of Attraction in Nature (London: Leaf Studio, 1937).
Introduction to Regardie’s Text • 17
In Appendix II: Correspondences for Healing Rituals, we provide lists of Qabalistic, elemental, planetary, and zodiacal attributions that can be employed by readers who wish to use Regardie’s ritual technique from appendix I. A basic Middle Pillar exercise and sample healing ritual is given. This can easily be adapted for many different therapeutic purposes. The latter portion of this book contains a glossary, bibliography, and index. Contemplation of alchemical symbolism—conscious as well as subconscious—is meant to captivate and inspire the student on many levels. This emblematic language speaks directly to the human soul on the true nature of the alchemist’s “gold.” However, eternal wisdom remains dormant in humanity so long as a mundane state of ignorance and superficiality exists. Inner alchemy is the uncovering of this interior wisdom and the removal of obstacles between the human mind and its intrinsically pure divine source. Throughout his lifetime, Israel Regardie did much to remove blinds and obstacles to students’ understanding of important spiritual truths. His work in Gold helps to further this objective in no small way. Gold is an important addition to the collective corpus of the alchemical arts. This is because the science of alchemy cannot be adequately understood if the reader approaches it from one perspective only. It is no simple thing, but rather a coherent, holistic system, similar to Qabalah or astrology. The student of Qabalah cannot hope to grasp the magnitude of that mystical tradition by studying the Hebrew alphabet without internalizing the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life. Similarly, one cannot understand astrology by mechanically delineating a zodiacal chart without understanding the philosophical ideas that help to explain the spiritual milestones of human life. The same is true of alchemy. To understand alchemy correctly, the practitioner cannot just do laboratory work or only perform the exercises of spiritual alchemy—the true alchemist must do both. This is why alchemy stands beside Qabalah and astrology as one of the foundational pillars of Hermetic philosophy.
18 • gold: israel regardie’s lost book of alchemy
The laboratory approach can no longer be ignored by the knowledgeable reader, and so the works of modern alchemists such as Frater Albertus, Mark Stavish, and Robert Allen Bartlett must be consulted if one is to have any hope of attaining a full comprehension of the matter. However, Mary Anne Atwood’s A Suggestive Inquiry into the Hermetic Mystery and Herbert Silberer’s Problems of Mysticism and Its Symbolism should also be consulted, because they provided crucial early links in the study of dream and myth interpretation of alchemical symbolism. Works such as these foreshadowed Carl Jung’s breakthrough psychological viewpoint as set forth in his work Psychology and Alchemy. And it was Atwood’s text, along with the Jungian approach, that inspired Israel Regardie to pen first The Philosopher’s Stone and then Gold. Regardie’s experience as a practicing Golden Dawn magician and psychotherapist provided him with a unique perspective on the symbolism and language of the spagyric art. Gold provides readers first and foremost with a magical interpretation of alchemy—a perspective that is based on Regardie’s study of Qabalah and magical imagery; the powers of the human mind and psychic vitality; visualization and prayer; color and planetary magic; yoga and zen; magnetism and the manipulation of the vital life force; the focused use of human willpower and imagination; and the mystical goal of the Great Work of alchemy—often referred to as enlightenment, illumination, or union with God. It would indeed be difficult to have a complete and thorough understanding of alchemy without exploring Regardie’s unparalleled insights as set forth in Gold. The history of literature abounds with tales of forgotten writings —texts lost to the ages through fateful mistakes, deliberate destruction, or simple carelessness. Israel Regardie’s writings played a central role in shaping modern ceremonial magic and establishing the connections between magic, alchemy, and psychology. Therefore, it is a privilege for us to be able to help save this previously unpublished
Introduction to Regardie’s Text • 19
work by Regardie from becoming just another missing manuscript. Admirers of “Francis” will no doubt agree.
—Chic Cicero & Sandra Tabatha Cicero Metatron House Autumnal Equinox, 2013
gold by Israel Regardie
Hermes Trismegistus and the Book of Knowledge
ynesius, the author of this text, was born during the fourth century A.D., at Cyrene, a Greek-colony in Africa. His environment was the lurid world of Gnosticism and Neo-Platonism. Various forms of mystical thought, some outrageous in the fantastic proportions they reached, were openly flourishing in the intellectual center of the Western world of that day, Alexandria. It was about 311 B.C. that there Alexander the Great had founded his colony. Almost immediately the little community had established a Ptolemaic school of philosophy where the prevailing ideas, modified by later influences, were essentially Platonic and Aristotelian. From her founding, the city had been the heir and protector of a stern philosophy. Gradually she had become rich and commercial, very worldly and very attractive. Because of her wisely chosen situation on the coast and because of the canal system by which the produce of Upper Egypt found an outlet to the sea, the city became very significant and important. That is, she developed into the one port through which flowed the riches of the Mediterranean cities, of India, and of the fertile granary of the Nile Valley. Each consignment contributed its toll in commissions and duties to her merchant princes and to the city government. In consequence, wealth had so accumulated there that, within one or two hundred years after the date of her foundation, there had arisen already many famous buildings, including the celebrated library. 23
24 • gold: israel regardie’s lost book of alchemy
She was a cosmopolitan city. We would have found there many racial divisions, with many and diverse interests. A large native population crowded certain districts—a native population which still held to the world of the ancient Egyptian gods and beliefs. In the northeast, another section was set off as the Jewish quarter, where we would have seen a motley crowd of Hebrew traders and merchants and scholars. An unyielding Jehovistic faith struggled with an advancing world for right of continuance. From the date of the martyrdom of St. Mark, the Christian infiltration had been making gradually increasing progress both from the numerical and social points of view. Greeks, Jews, Egyptians and the Christians—each perhaps differing from the other in many ways, with nevertheless an agreement in one particular at least. They agreed on the religious particular of the existence of God. Though here, even in this single agreement, were several important theological differences based on racial temperament and varying psychological needs. The craze of the time, possibly a deep and urgent psychological necessity in view of the insecure nature of social and political life, comparable in many ways to the present day, was a syncretism. The Pauline attempt of some three hundred years earlier to wed Greek thought to Jewish Messianism by means of an intellectual or spiritual vision is a particular instance of that tendency. Everywhere, and on every hand, people were extravagantly undertaking synthetical combinations of all the existent religions, cults, and philosophies. It was a mad confused world this, just prior to the victory of Church authority over independent inspiration and religious experience in anticipation of the complete extinction of intellectual effort and spiritual initiative in the Dark Ages. Synesius was educated in all that characterized Neo-Platonism. It is evident that some of his writings, the essay De Insomniis, for example, were profoundly influenced by Plotinus, Later, however, he evolved to the viewpoint that his personal pagan philosophy was not necessarily incompatible with Christianity. He was a man of great determination and many talents with a robust common sense. Synesius was not in reality a mystic, even although a strain of mysticism
Introduction • 25
peers out here and there from his writing. Historically he appears to us rather as of a very positive extraverted character. The role of philosopher was one which, perhaps in moments of over-ambition and aspiration, he had imposed upon himself, guided more by personal predilection than by inherent capacity. It is difficult to imagine that it was one assigned to him by nature. Such a role, it is evident to us now, rested upon a very fragile and shallow foundation. As a bishop, he was militant, and a deep patriot. But he was neither a profound nor an original thinker, as is evidenced by his essays and letters. The volume The Essays and Hymns of Synesius, edited and introduced by A. Fitzgerald and published by the Oxford University Press, is ample proof of this assumption. He was, in fact, something of a dilettante, a man moderately well-versed in the culture of his age. The charm of his writing rests in the intimate contact and sympathy that his writings establish with the reader, rather than in any spontaneity or originality of thought or expression. I have written thus far about Synesius and his milieu to convey some slight picture of the bishop of Ptolemais who is supposed to have been the author of this text. Quite apart from the intrinsic evidence of the writing which I propose to examine soon, it is more or less obvious that Synesius of Cyrene, a Christian abbot during the fourth century, could not have been its author. The nature of his very few extant writings as evidenced by the volumes I have cited above, depict him as of another nature than a writer on alchemy. Scholarship maintains that whilst he occasionally wrote in a mystical vein he himself was no mystic. And this is not difficult to understand. A more or less educated man of today would unwittingly express himself, should he essay expression in writing, in the scientific and conventional clichés of our time. This would not necessarily indicate that this person was a scientist—a logical empiricist. In such of his literary output as we possess, we clearly may detect the strains of Platonism and Neo-Platonism in addition to the pre-dominant Christian feeling. He was simply expressing himself in the ideology and intellectual clichés of his age. But that is to say quite another thing than that such a man could have been capable of writing alchemical obscurities.
26 • gold: israel regardie’s lost book of alchemy
Yet at the same time, another viewpoint is most certainly not impossible. I do not wish to be a partisan. A critic, above all, must be impartial, weighing such evidence, large or otherwise, as makes its way into his ken. We know that the jargon of alchemy is one that has persisted more or less in the same basic form throughout the centuries. Greek alchemy displays fairly much the same characteristics as later European alchemy. Chinese texts, au fond, are very similar to those of Byzantium and of India, of Persia and Arabia. It is not at all impossible that in Alexandria at Synesius’ day were alchemists and alchemical writers. It is not even impossible, though this we do not definitely know, that he himself had met them and had been influenced by them. In fact, it is highly probable that he did. But speculation will tell us nothing of this, and I must not force the issue. It simply makes it very difficult to determine the author of the text, if such determination is considered important. The entire evidence presented makes me feel dubious in accepting Synesius as the author of The True Book. Actually, the message conveyed by the title itself—that it is the true book of the abbot, having been taken or stolen out of the Emperor’s library—by the mere fact of its insistence arouses suspicion that all is not well. The emphasis, it seems to me on psychological grounds, is slightly overdone. It is as though a psychotic with marked paranoic symptoms were to walk into a psychiatric consulting room and say, without prompting or justification, “Oh no; I was not really being followed here. I don’t actually believe I am being spied upon.” Suspicion would immediately be aroused by such spontaneous and uninvited denial. You would wonder why it was necessary to give assurance in advance of the absence of paranoic symptomatology. Likewise here. The title alone would have been enough—sufficiently interesting or convincing by itself— without having had to add that it had been taken from the Emperor’s library. There are, furthermore, several references to alchemical authorities of a much later age. A former colleague of mine, a scholar with a profound and unrivalled knowledge of alchemical literature and history, does not believe however that such references necessarily prove
Introduction • 27
the spurious nature of the text. It is his contention that these alchemical manuscripts may have been privately distributed and circulated for generations. It may well have been that some over-zealous owner of the text in, let us say, the fourteenth century, interpolated quotations from alchemical writings of his day in order to buttress up his own belief in the art. In so doing, he failed to recognize that he had almost completely ruined an authentic text of an earlier age. Be that as it may, the treatise mentions Geber twice, and Alphidius once. The date of Geber, the Arabian prince alchemist, is difficult to place. It ranges anywhere from the sixth to the tenth century. We may therefore hazard a safe guess in the assumption that he lived about the eighth century. Alphidius dates considerably later. If we except the theory that there may have been an original Greek manuscript written by the abbot Synesius in which several centuries afterwards interpolations were inserted—and this of course may never be proved— then we are obliged to consider The True Book of the Learned Synesius as having an origin at the earliest in the thirteenth century, or it may be a little later. Some may feel inclined to posit the theory that Synesius was gifted with prevision. Who the author of this text was, we do not really know. His modesty in bestowing the fruits of his pen and the cloak of his erudition on a Neo-Platonic abbot defeats us in our search into origins. But whoever he was, he must have felt that the system he was attempting to delineate had certain points of contact with that espoused by Synesius. Otherwise, why should he have taken the trouble to mention Synesius by name? Why not Plotinus or Iamblichus—or anyone of the host of celebrities who, so far as the authority of mere name values is concerned, might have answered to his purpose equally? Possibly his name was chosen to render the work more acceptable to those of the Christian faith. Nevertheless, when attempting to widen our understanding of this treatise, we must remember this allusion to the doctrines of Neo-Platonism, where we are confronted with fundamental religious doctrines. So far as the actual text and its bibliography is concerned, there is little to say. In the year 1678, the first English edition was published in
28 • gold: israel regardie’s lost book of alchemy
London, as may be seen by the imprint on the title page reproduced herein. (See illustration on page 30.) The True Book of Synesius, in that edition, was inconspicuously tucked away at the back of a much larger and better known alchemical treatise by Basil Valentine, The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony with annotations by Theodore Kirkringius, M.D. Prior to this, the most easily accessible copy of the text was a Latin version, one edition of which was published from Amsterdam in 1671. The French edition appeared in Paris in the year 1612, in a volume entitled Traites de la Philosophie, etc. Whether or not there was a Greek original from which the Latin and French editions were rendered is open to question. There is so little trustworthy evidence of any kind that one hesitates to express any opinion. For sooner or later, some of the larger libraries in Europe, in which ancient manuscripts have resided for long centuries without being pored over and disturbed by inquisitive minds and roaming hands, may be opened to research and investigation, if they are not previously destroyed by vandals. Possibly then some sort of original text may come to light. Meanwhile I am inclined to doubt that there is an original Greek text, for the style and tenor betray quite a late period of expression. So far as I personally am concerned, however, it does not matter a rap who really wrote the book. This matter may be left to scholars of the future to decide. Why should we be bothered about abstract problems of this type? What I am interested in, however, is a purely practical consideration. That is to say, is there anything in this text which is of any importance to us? I claim there is. I may as well take my stand here at the outset, and express my fundamental platform. It is my contention that alchemical writing is of a peculiar type. It belongs to that vast realm of expression which has a close kinship with mythology, religion, poetry and dream. In a word, it is material that has issued from the hidden depths of man’s unconscious psyche. Not only so, but I believe that we can learn a very great deal from it. The alchemists have much to give us. If we are humble and receptive, there is much that we may obtain—information by way of a psychological technique of psychic integration and illumination
Introduction â€˘ 29
that make our modern therapeutic systems look like the dabblings of triflers and dilettante. So serious am I in this belief, and so convinced am I from prolonged investigation of this branch of knowledge and its application above all to my own psychological practice, that I propose to examine this text of Synesius in terms of the general principles underlying its assumptions. Whether Synesius wrote it or not is unimportant. What Synesius or the real author has said, that for me is significant. It is this inner kernel of value that I have always sought irrespective of where it was that the search has led me. And here in The True Book there are discoveries to be made. I should like to share the book with other minds of equal eagerness and intentness and open earnest heart. â€”ISRAEL REGARDIE New York August, 1941
Title Page of Basil Valentineâ€™s The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony
the true book of the learned greek abbot
SYNESIUS TAKEN OUT OF THE EMPERORâ€™S LIBRARY
hough the Ancient Philosophers have written diversely of this science, concealing under a multitude of names the true principles of the Art; yet have they not done it but upon important considerations as we shall hereafter make appear. And though they are different in their expressions, yet are they not any way discordant one from another, but aiming all at one end, and speaking of the same thing, they have thought fit (above all the rest) to name the proper Agent, by a term, strange, nay sometimes contrary to its nature and qualities. Know then, my Son, that almighty God together with this Universe, created two Stones, that is to say, the White and the Red, both which are under one and the same subject, and afterwards multiplied in such abundance, that everyone may take as much as he please thereof. The matter of them is of such a kind, that it seems to be a mean between Metal and Mercury; and this matter is the instrument whereby our desire is accomplished, if we do but prepare it. Hence it comes that those who bestow their endeavors in this Art without the said medium, lose their labor, but if they are acquainted with the Medium, they shall find
32 • gold: israel regardie’s lost book of alchemy
all things feasible and fortunate. Know then that this Medium, being aerial, is found among the celestial Bodies, and that it is only there are found the Masculine and Feminine Gender (to speak properly) having a constant, strong, fixed and permanent Virtue, of the essence whereof (as I have told thee) Philosophers have expressed themselves only by Similitudes and Figures. This they did, that the science might not be discovered by the Ignorant, which if it should once happen, all were lost: but that it might be comprehended only by those patient souls, and subtilized understandings, which being sequestered from the soyliness of this world, are cleansed from the filth of that terrene dunghill of Avarice, whereby the ignorant are chained to the earthiness of this World, which is (without this admirable quintessence) the receptacle of poverty; it being certain, that those divine souls, when they have div’d into Democritus’s Fountain, that is to say, into the truth of Nature, would soon discover what confusion might happen in all estates and conditions, if everyone could make as much Gold as he would himself. Upon this ground was it that they were pleased to speak by figures, types, and analogies, that so they might not be understood but by such as are discreet, religious, and enlightened by (divine) Wisdom. All which, notwithstanding, they have left in their writings a certain method, way and rule, by the assistance whereof the wise man may comprehend whatever they have written most obscurely, and in time arrive at the knowledge of it, though haply wading through some error, as I have done, praised be God for it. And whereas the Vulgar ignorant person ought to submit to these reasons, and consequently adore, what is too great, to enter into his Brain, he on the contrary accuses the Philosophers of imposture and impiety, by which means, and the scarcity of wise men, the Art falls into contempt. But for my part, I tell thee, they have always expressed themselves according to certain Truth, though very obscurely, and sometimes fabulously, all which I have discipher’d in this little Treatise, and after such a manner that the earnest desirer of Science shall understand what hath been mystically delivered by the Philosophers. And yet if he pretend to understand me and know not the nature of the Elements and things created, as also our rich Metal, he doth but lose his Labor: but if he un-
The True Book of the Learned Greek Abbot Synesius â€˘ 33
derstand the Concord and Discord of Natures, he will by Godâ€™s assistance arrive to the rest. It is therefore my suit to God, that he who shall understand the present Secret may work to the glory and praise of the sacred Divinity. Know then, my dear Son, that the ignorant man cannot comprehend the secret of the Art, because it depends upon the Knowledge of the true Body, which is hidden from him. Know then, my Son, pure and impure, the clean and unclean Natures, for there cannot come from any thing that which it hath not. For things, that are not or have not, cannot give but their own Nature: make use then of that which is most perfect and nearest in kind, thou shalt meet with, and it shall suffice. Avoid then that which is mixt, and take the simple, for that proceeds from the Quintessence. Note that we have two bodies of very great perfection, full of Mercury: Out of these extract thy Mercury, and of that thou shalt make the Medicine, called by some Quintessence, which is a Vertue or Power that is imperishable, permanent, and perpetually victorious, nay it is a clear Light, which sheds true goodness into every Soul that hath once tasted of it. It is the knot and link of all the Elements, which it contains in itself, as being also the Spirit which nourisheth all things, and by the assistance whereof Nature works in the Universe. It is the force, the beginning and end of the whole work, and to lay all open to thee in a word, know that the Quintessence and the hidden things of our Stone is nothing else than our viscous, celestial and glorious Soul drawn by our Magistery out of its Mine, which engenders itself, and that it is not possible for us to make that water by Art, but Nature alone begets it, and that water is the most sharp Vinegar, which makes Gold to be a pure spirit, nay it is that blessed Nature which engenders all things, which through its putrefaction is become a Triunity, and by reason of its Viridity causes an appearance of diverse colors. And I advise thee, my Son, make no account of any other things (as being vain), labor only for that water which turns to blackness, whitens, dissolves and congeals. It is that which putrifies, and causes germination, and therefore I advise thee, that thou wholly employ thyself in the decoction of this water, and quarrel not at the expense of time, otherwise thou shalt have no advantage. Decoct it gently by little and little, until it have changed
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its false color into a perfect, and have a great care at the beginning that thou burn not its Flowers and its vivacity, and make not too much haste to come to an end of thy work. Shut thy Vessel well, that what is within may not breathe out, and so thou mayst bring it to some effect. And note that to dissolve, to calcine, to tinge, to whiten, to renew, to bathe, to wash, to coagulate, to imbibe, to decoct, to fix, to grind, to dry, and to distill, are all one, and signify no more than to concoct Nature, until such time as it be perfect. Note further that to extract the soul, or the spirit, or the body, is nothing else than the above said Calcinations, in regard they signify the operation of Venus. It is therefore through the fire of the extraction of the soul that the spirit comes forth gently, understand me. The same may also be said of the extraction of the soul out of the Body, and the reduction of it afterwards upon the same Body, until the whole be drawn to a commixtion of all the four Elements. And so that which is below, is like that which is above, and consequently there are made therein two luminaries, the one fixt the other not, whereof the fixâ€™d remains below, and the volatile above, moving itself perpetually, until that which is below, which is the male, get upon the female, and all be fixed, and then issues out an incomparable Luminary. And as in the beginning, there was only one, so in this Matter, all proceeds from one and returns to one, which is called a conversion of the Elements, and to convert the Elements, is as much as to make the humid dry, and the volatile fixed, that so that which is thick may be made thin, and weaken the thing that fixeth the rest, the fixative part of the thing remaining entire. Thus happens the life and death of the Elements, which compose, germinate and produce, and so one thing perfects another and assists it to oppose the Fire.
The Practice My Son it is necessary that thou work with the Mercury of the Philosophers and the wise, which is not the Vulgar, nor hath anything of the Vulgar, but, according to them, is the first Matter, the Soul of the World, the cold Element, the blessed Water, the Water of the Wise, the Venemous Water, the most sharp Vinegar, the Mineral Water, the Water of celestial grace, the Virgin Milk, our Mineral and corporeal Mercury. For this alone
The True Book of the Learned Greek Abbot Synesius â€˘ 35
perfects both the stones, the White and the Red. Consider what Geber sayes, that our Art consists not in the multitude of several things, because the Mercury is but one only thing, that is to say, one only Stone wherein consists the whole Magistery; to which thou shalt not add any strange thing, save that in the preparation thereof thou shalt take away from it whatsoever is superfluous, by reason that in this matter, all things requisite to this Art are contained. And therefore it is very observable that he saies, we must add nothing that is strange, save the Sun and Moon for the red and white Tincture, which are not strange (to it) but are its Ferment, by which the work is accomplished. Lastly, mark my Son, that these Suns and Moons are not the same with the Vulgar Gold and Silver, for that our Suns and Moons are better in their nature than the Vulgar Suns and Moons. For our Suns and Moons are in their nature living, and those of the Vulgar are dead in comparison of ours, which are existent and permanent in our Stone. Whence thou mayest observe that the Mercury drawn out of our Bodies, is like the aqueous and common Mercury, and for that reason enjoys itself and takes pleasure in its like, and is more glad of its company, as it happens in the simple and compound, which thing hath not been discovered by the Philosophers in their Books. And the advantage therefore which is in this Art, lies in the Mercury, Sun and Moon. Diomedes saith, make use of such a matter as to which thou must not introduce any strange thing, neither pouder nor water, for that several things do not improve our Stone, and thereby he sufficiently instructs him, who understands him, that the tincture of our Stone is not drawn from any thing but the Mercury of the Philosophers, which is their principle, their root, and their great Tree, sprouting forth into boughs and branches.
The First Operation
Sublimation It is not Vulgar but Philosophical whereby we take away from the Stone whatever is superfluous, which, in effect is nothing else, but the elevation of the not-fixed part by fume and vapor, for the fixed part should remain in the bottom, nor would we that one should be separated from
36 • gold: israel regardie’s lost book of alchemy
the other, but that they remain and be fixed together. Know also that he, who shall sublime our Philosophical Mercury (wherein is all the vertue of our Stone) as it ought to be done, shall perfect the Magistery. This gave Geber reason to say that all perfection consists in Sublimation, and in this Sublimation all other operations, that is to say, Distillation, Assation, Destruction, Coagulation, Putrefaction, Calcination, Fixation, Reduction of the White and Red Tinctures, procreated and engendered in one furnace and in one Vessel and this is the ready way to the final Consummation whereof the Philosophers have made divers chapters, purposely to amuse the Ignorant. Take then in the name of the great God the venerable matter of the Philosophers, called the first Hyle of the Sages, which contains the above named Philosophical Mercury, termed, the first matter of the perfect Body, put it into its Vessel, which must be clear, diaphanous and round, and closely stopped by the Seal of Seals, and make it hot in its place, well-prepared, with temperate heat, for the space of a Philosophical Month, keeping it six weeks and two days in the sweat of sublimation until it begins to be putrefyed, to ferment, to be colored and to be congealed with its metallick humidity, and be fixed so far, that it do no more ascend in aiery fumous substance, but remains fixed in the bottom, turned from what it was, and divested of all viscous humidity, putrefyed and black, which is called the Sable Robe, Night, or the Crowe’shead. Thus when our Stone is in the Vessel, and that it mounts up on high in fume, this is called Sublimation, and when it falls down from on high, Distillation, and Descension. When it begins to participate of the fumous substance, and to be putrefyed, and that by reason of the frequent ascent and descent it begins to coagulate, then it is Putrefaction and devouring Sulphur, and lastly through the want or privation of the humidity of the radical water is wrought Calcination and Fixation both at the same time, by decoction alone, in one only Vessel, as I have already said. Moreover in this sublimation is wrought the true separation of the Elements, for in our Sublimation the Elixir is turned from Water into a terrestrial Element dry and hot, by which operation it is manifest, that the separation of the four Elements in our Stone is not Vulgar but
The True Book of the Learned Greek Abbot Synesius â€˘ 37
Philosophical. Hence also is it, that in our Stone there are but two formal Elements, that is to say, Earth and Water; but the Earth hath in its grossness, the virtue and drought of Fire; and the Water contains in it self the air with its humidity. Thus we have in our Stone visibly but two elements, but effectually there are four. And by this thou maist judge, that the separation of the four Elements is absolutely physical not vulgar and real, such as the ignorant daily employ themselves in. Continue therefore its decoction with a gentle fire, until all the black matter appearing in the superficies be quite dissipated by the Magistery, which blackness is by the Philosophers called the dark mantle of the Stone, which afterwards becoming clear is termed the cleansing water of the earth, or rather the Elixir. And note, that the blackness which appears is a sign of putrefaction. And the beginning of the dissolution is a sign of the conjunction of both natures. And this blackness appears sometimes in forty dayes, more or less, according to the quantity of the matter, and the industry of the Operator, which contributes much to the separation of the said Blackness. Now my Son, by the grace of God thou art acquainted with one Element of our Stone, which is the black earth, the Ravenâ€™s head, by some called the obscure shadow, upon which earth as upon a base all the rest is grounded. This terrestrial and dry Element, is called, Laton, the Bull, black Dreggs, our Metall, our Mercury, And thus by the privation of the adult humidity, which is taken away by Philosophical sublimation, the volatile is fixed, and the moist is made dry and earth; nay, according to Geber, there is wrought a change of the complexion, as of a cold and humid Nature, into dry choler; and according to Alphidius, of a liquid into a thick. Whence is apprehended what the Philosophers mean when they say, that the operation of our Stone is only a transmutation of Nature and a revolution of Elements. Thou seest then how that by this incorporation the humid becomes dry, the volatile fixed, the Spiritual corporeal, the liquid thick, water fire, air earth, and that there happens an infallible change in their true nature, and a certain circulation of the four Elements.
38 â€˘ gold: israel regardieâ€™s lost book of alchemy
The Second Operation
Dealbationâ€‰1 It converts our Mercury into the white Stone, and that by decoction only. When the earth is separated from its water, then must the Vessel be set on the Ashes, as is usual in a distilling furnace, and the water be distilled by a gentle fire at the beginning, so that the water come so gently that thou mayst distinctly number as far as forty names, or pronounce fifty-six words, and let this order be observed in all the distillations of the black earth, and that which is in the bottom of the Vessel, that is, the Faeces remaining to be imbided, with the new water, will be dissolved, which water will contain three or four parts more than those Feces, that so all may be dissolved and converted into Mercury and Argent vive. I tell thee that this must be done so often, that there shall remain nothing but the Murc. For this distillation there is no time limited, but it is done sooner or later according to the greater or lesser quantity of the water, proportionably to the quantity of the fire. Then take the earth which thou shalt have reserved in a Vessel of Glass, with its distilled water, and with a soft and gentle fire, such as was that of Distillation, or purification, or rather one somewhat stronger, continue it, till such time as the earth be dry and white, and by reason of its drought, drunk up all its water. This done, put to it some of the abovesaid water, and so, as at the beginning, continue on the same decoction, until that earth is become absolutely white, cleansed and clear, and have drunk all its water. And note that the said earth will be washed from its blackness by the decoction, as I have said, because it is easily putrefyed by its own water, and is cleansed, which is the end of the Magistery, and then be sure to keep that white earth very carefully. For that is the White Mercury, White Magnesia, Foliated earth. Then take this white earth rectified as abovesaid, and put it into its vessel upon the ashes, to a fire of Sublimation, and let it have a very strong fire until all the coagulated water, which is within, come into the Alembick, and the earth remain in the bottom well calcined: then hast thou the earth, the water, and the air, and though the earth have in it the nature of the fire, yet is it not apparent 1. To make white.
The True Book of the Learned Greek Abbot Synesius â€˘ 39
in effect, as thou shalt see, when by a greater decoction thou shalt make it become red; so that then thou shalt manifestly see the fire in appearance, and such must be the proceeding in order to Fermentation of the white earth, that the dead body may be animated and enlivened, and its vertue be multiplied to infinity. But note, that the Ferment cannot enter into the dead body, but by the means of the water, which hath made a contract and a marriage between the Ferment and the white earth. And know that in all Fermentation the weight is to be considered, that so the quantity of the volatile exceed not the fixed, and that the marriage pass away in fume. For, as Senior sayes, If thou convert not the earth into water and the water into fire, there cannot be a conjunction of the spirit and body. To do this take a Lamen or plate red hot and cast on it a drop of our Medicine, which penetrating, it shall be of a perfect color, and will be a sign of perfection. If it happen it do not tinge, reiterate the dissolution and coagulation, until it do tinge and penetrate. And note, that seven imbibitions, at the most, are sufficient, and five at the least, that so the matter may be liquifyed, and without smoak, and then the matter is perfect as to whiteness, for as much as the matter sometimes requires a longer time to be fixed, and sometimes is done in a shorter, according to the quantity of the Medicine. And note that our Medicine from the creation of our Mercury requires the term of seven months to compass the whiteness, and, to arrive at the redness, five; which put together make twelve.
Of the Third Operation
Rubification Take of the white Medicine, as much as thou wilt, and put it with its Glass upon the hot ashes, till it becomes as dry as the ashes. Then put to it some water of the Sun, which thou hast kept purposely for that end, and continue the fire to the second degree, until it become dry, then put to it again some of the abovesaid water, and so successively imbibe and dry, until the matter be rubified, and fluxible as wax, and cover with it the red Lamen, as hath been said, and the matter shall be perfect as to redness. But note that at every time, thou needs put no more of the
40 â€˘ gold: israel regardieâ€™s lost book of alchemy
water of the Sun than is barely necessary to cover the body, and this is done that the Elixir sink not and be drowned, and so the fire must be continued unto dessication, and then must there be made a second imbibition, and so proceed in order to the perfection of the Medicine, that is to say, until the force of the digestion of the fire convert it into a very red pouder, which is the true Hyle of the Philosophers, the bloody Stone, the purple red Coral, the precious Ruby, red Mercury and the red Tincture.
Projection The oftner thou shalt dissolve and coagulate it, the more will the Vertue of it be multiplied to infinity. But note that the medicine is multiplied later by Solution, then by Fermentation. Wherefore the thing dissolved operates not well if it be not before fixed in its ferment. Nevertheless the multiplication of the Medicine by Solution is more abundant than that of the Ferment, by reason there is more subtilisation. Yet I advise thee that in the multiplication thou put one part of the work upon four of the other, and in a short time there will be made a pouder, all Ferment.
The Epilogue According to Hermes Thus art thou to separate the earth from the fire, the gross from the subtil gently, with great Judgment, that is to say, separate the parts that are united to the Furnace, by the dissolution and separation of the parts, as the earth from the fire, the subtile from the gross &c., that is to say, the more pure substance of the Stone, until thou hast got it clean, and free from all spots or filth. And when he saith, it ascends from the earth up into Heaven and returns again into the earth, there is no more to be understood by it than the Sublimation of the Bodies. Further, to explain what distillation is, he sayes the Wind carryes it in its belly, that is, when the water is distilled by the Alembick, where it first ascends by a wind full of Fume and Vapor, and afterwards returns to the bottom of the Vessel in water again. When he would also express the congelation of the matter, he says, Its force is absolute, if it be turned into earth, that is to say, be converted by decoction. And to make a general demonstration of all that hath been said, he sayes, It shall receive both the inferior and
The True Book of the Learned Greek Abbot Synesius â€˘ 41
Superior force, that is to say that of the Elements, far as much as, if the Medicine receive the force of the lighter parts, that is to say, air and fire, it shall also receive that of the more grave and weighty parts, changing itself into water and earth, to the end, that the Matters being thus perpetually joined together, may have permanence, durance, constancy, and stability. Glory be to God.
ALCHEMY AND PSYCHOLOGY
n the Middle Ages, alchemy was a body of knowledge accorded the utmost respect and veneration. It had penetrated every form of learning. Before its shrine the savants of philosophy and theology paid humble homage. Nowadays the various histories of chemistry which are considered authoritative look askance at the noble parent of their science. It is an object of derision and contempt. Few modern historians, however, realize that it is not from alchemy proper that the chemical art was derived. Rather it was from the mistaken efforts of uninitiated operators—those who despite clear instruction, worked with actual vulgar materials. These, came derisively to be known as the Puffers. It is from these pseudo-alchemists, and not from the accredited philosophical authorities, that we have inherited the earliest chemical discoveries. To this day, the real nature of alchemy—or rather an intelligible interpretation of alchemical texts—remains a dark mystery to academic scholarship. It is claimed by some that a crude and archaic form of chemical practice and metal working indubitably underlies these texts. And to understand them, we must therefore apply a primitive chemical and scientific interpretation. In a very penetrating and erudite work entitled Alchemy, Child of Greek Philosophy, the author, Arthur John Hopkins, ventures a theory and posits statements which, whilst in harmony with the currently accepted ideas on the subject, are in my estimation erroneous. He says, “But because the true theory 43
44 • gold: israel regardie’s lost book of alchemy
of alchemy, the original Egyptian theory, was no longer understood, the writers of Western Europe were never able to carry out in practice the promises expressed in their books. The actual gold which was looked for was never produced.” 1 Though it is not my intention to labor upon the idea of a physical transmutation of metals, since that is a subject calling for special treatment by specialists, nevertheless the issue raised here requires some little discussion. The contention is that the evidence we have from the past is not only untrustworthy but that the alchemists themselves were knaves and liars. It suggests that the testimony of these alchemists that actually they did produce gold, is false testimony. The assumption, I contend, is false. Its psychology is undoubtedly fallacious. The factor involved in so sweeping a statement is due no doubt not only to the widespread extraverted attitude of the day, but to the sense of antagonism experienced by our modern scientists to the means by which the alchemists are said to have produced that gold. No matter how produced, and regardless of the unacceptableness or the repugnance of the transmuting mechanism to us today, the fact is that Flamel, Van Helmont, Sendivogius, and many another claimed not only to have produced gold artificially but to have had it tested and accepted as currency. We have evidence as valid as any of that of past times that this gold was tried thoroughly by all the acid tests of the jewelers. There was no question merely of tinting or of a surface plating of a metal to suggest solid gold, as Hopkins suggests. Chemical tests had already been sufficiently well developed for the goldsmiths to have seen through so superficial a metallurgical artifice. Hopkins’ theory is that originally alchemy grew out of a simple artisanship. Here he repeats the celebrated French scholar Berthelot, and it is obvious that Arthur Edward Waite, who propounds a
1. A rthur John Hopkins, Alchemy, Child of Greek Philosophy (New York: Columbia University Press, 1934), 10–11. Online version at http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi /pt?id=uc1.b4566948.
Alchemy and Psychology • 45
similar view in The Secret Tradition in Alchemy,2 derives his conclusions from the same source. In Egypt, where the art is said to have had its inception, the colors of nature were drab, and meagre. The sun, hot and glaring and cruel, burned the life and color out of the vegetation, and the environment in consequence appeared but dull and monotonous and uninteresting. Sand and desert stretched for miles about the Egyptian cities. As a result, the people were moved to improve upon nature. This they did by employing in their building operations stones and bricks of different colors and textures in order to relieve the wide neutrality and boring monotony about them. Also they painted designs and pictures of bright and varied hue in their interiors, as compensation for the drabness and lifeless appearance of nature in which they lived. They loved clothes colored with rich bright dyes, and the socalled “royal purple” intrigued them enormously. Theirs was a distinct leaning towards jewelry. Bracelets and necklaces and rings of gold and silver, exquisitely worked and chased, were especially desirable. Since gold and silver, precious metals, were beyond the reach of the simple inhabitant of those days, the desire for ornamentation gave impetus to the alloying of metals. These were cunningly mixed and tinted by a bronzing surface treatment so as to give the appearance of the “genuine article.” “The first appearance of these colored metals on the market,” suggests Hopkins, “must have come as a novelty and created a demand very encouraging to the manufacturer.” 3 At the beginning therefore there was apparently no deliberate deception or disgrace involved in the practice of tinting metals. Nevertheless it was from this need to give cheap and tawdry baubles to the common people that arose alchemy with its aspiration towards the real transmutation of metals. Such a view, while no doubt a correct one in the main, is faulty in at least one particular. It takes no cognizance of the view that long 2. A . E. Waite, The Secret Tradition in Alchemy: Its Development and Records (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., 1926). 3. Hopkins, 48.
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prior to such a commercial exploitation of alloyed metals, was a long tradition of mystical and high religious thought. To ignore this is at once to knock away the foundations from under one’s feet. And without such a realization all one’s speculations partake of modernity in its worst sense—of theories deprived of all substance, suspended in mid-air, timeless because not grounded in our history and intellectual evolution. Earlier in his work, Hopkins had mentioned the established fact that for at least a couple of thousand years before the Christian era, the Egyptians had evolved a very profound religious culture. This was centered about Osiris, the resurrection God. By the psychological mechanism of portmanteau symbolism, displacement and condensation—mechanism so clearly operating in those spontaneous irruptions of psychic activity, dreams and fantasies, mechanisms with which the genius of Freud has familiarized us—he became associated with the solar Gods Ra and Khephra. Consequently there developed too the association with yellow, the physical golden color of the sun. Hence to become Osiris by the various religious means of the ancient Egyptians, implied a species of union or identification with the Sun, or that ultimate reality of life implied by the Sun, the source of light and life and virtue. And it is evident that to a religious people, the body-consciousness with its down-tending desires and predilections came to be symbolized as dark, heavy, and leaden in nature. The spirit represented by the Sun and by Osiris was considered as light, activity, and the purest gold. It was the lead consciousness of which they wished to be relieved, with its burden of guilt, fear and anxiety. It was this that they wished to open up, and thus transmute, to the pure gold of the heavenly Osiris, the Redeemer and Mediator. From this elementary and primitive reasoning the sacerdotal classes had developed an imposing superstructure of mystical realization. It is evident that the priests, who we know had already evolved a complex spiritual scheme, noble and fine in many ways, would have been able to develop a psychological technique whereby such a transmutation from the lead of corruption to the gold of psychic incorruptibility could be accomplished.
Alchemy and Psychology • 47
I believe that the Hopkins or generally accepted scientific view is certainly valid in respect of a certain class of texts. Alchemy has of course several planes of interpretation, and an equal number of classes of texts. Nevertheless his view is not one that can be over-zealously or too widely applied. The present text, for example, is a case in point. No doubt it is spurious in the sense that The True Book of the Learned Synesius cannot be the work of Synesius the abbot of Ptolemais in the fourth century. It must therefore be considered a mediaeval forgery. On the other hand it is typical of a distinct class of alchemical literature. The very definitions employed—and I must mention the fact that this work is famous for its classical and almost perfect definitions—lead one to suppose that another level of interpretation must be sought.
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Excluding the idea that this particular book is an early chemical text-book, as I maintain we are forced to exclude, then we are confronted by the problem as to what other direction we may turn for a solution. I may say briefly here that there are several other interpretations possible. There is the religious or moral viewpoint, and the mystical and occult. Naturally each of these exegetical approaches applies its own norm of interpretation to certain parts of certain texts to confirm its own particular hypothesis. Since the advent of modern psychological knowledge, with particular reference to the clinical findings of those great pioneers Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung, we have been given a key to the understanding of myths, epics, legends and dreams of every kind, whether racial or individual. These findings are so tremendous in implication that to ignore them would be unwise—even stupid. It is to this branch of scientific research that we must first turn in seeking an elucidation of the enigmas and obscurities of the alchemical works. Since these, like dreams and myths, issue from the dark submerged levels of the human psyche, and inasmuch as they do not seem to respond to any of the ordinary interpretations along scientific mechanistic lines, then we are forced to turn the psychological key. And the lock opens! Because they were humanly penned, these obscurities must have some meaning in terms of human consciousness. Everything humanly created has meaning and significance of some kind. Even nonsense has some significance in that it is an outpouring of a particular human mind. We have only to discover the hidden motive of that mind, and the nonsense at once becomes intelligible. I am convinced that the attempt to employ the psychological key to these dark mysteries of alchemy will yield significant material and ideas. A technique is yielded, moreover, which indicates that these early writers whoever they may have been, so far from having been lost in a meaningless maze of gibberish, as most modern critics unjustifiably have come to think, knew very well what they were writing. And that, moreover, they possessed a very profound and extensive knowledge of the deeps and intricacies of the various levels of man’s own mental, moral and
Alchemy and Psychology • 49
spiritual nature. This knowledge I believe to have some value even for us today. Such a point of view is imperative. Not only is it so for the reasons I have stated, but because we find it infuriating and injurious to our sense of self-esteem to be baffled by the intellectual or literary expression of our fellows. I contend this must be true for several reasons. Even if we assume that this especial text is spurious and could never have been penned in the early centuries of the Christian era, yet the mere fact that some ten centuries later its actual composer did attribute it to Synesius must have some particular meaning, some psychic significance of no little import. Synesius, as we know, was a Neo-Platonist who converted to Christianity, becoming eventually a pillar of the Church. It was his belief that Paganism and the newer dispensation, so far from being antagonistic, had a very great deal in common one with another. He held that they should unite to form a single religious and philosophical unit. Accordingly, in the mere accident of attribution alone I am inclined to seek a spiritual or philosophical signification. I suggest the text must be interpreted on a high philosophical or mystical level, using the symbolism and technique of Analytical Psychology as the means whereby the quasi-religious or philosophical interpretations may be rendered acceptable to modern thought and scholarship. That some spiritual or inward and not a chemical interpretation is imperative is borne in upon us by one or two of the definitions provided in the text itself. For example, the first sentence of the second section reads: “My son, it is necessary that thou work with the Mercury of the Philosophers and the Wise, which is not the Vulgar, nor hath anything of the Vulgar.” Here is a direct injunction not to stoop down into the mineral world. How, in view of such a caution, could one confuse metallurgical processes with those of philosophy? What is the Mercury of the wise? Our text suggests the answer. “It is the first Matter, the Soul of the World.” At once we are plunged into the deeps of early philosophy and religion, a late reflection of Platonic speculation. According to archaic philosophy, the Soul of the World is the one reality. It is the ideal
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world, of which the actual physical world susceptible to the physical senses is the negation or phenomenon. Likewise it is considered as an omnipresent life principle, pulsating throughout all space, and permeating every living thing. It is life itself, and without it no thing could be. Life and consciousness, in mystical philosophy throughout the ages, are identical. Where the one is, there may we find the other. Hence to work with the Mercury of the Philosophers is to confine one’s labors metaphysically to the ever-present spirit of life, ubiquitous and infinite, pulsing in the core of the human heart. Though the human psyche is a whole or unity, it has its own various compartments or functions which roughly we may designate as Conscious and Unconscious. That is to say, that certain of our thinking processes are consciously performed, whilst at the same time there is a vast field of cerebration and psychic activity of which normally we have not the vaguest awareness. The appearance of dream and fantasy is eloquent proof of this unconscious activity. The enormously wide field of hypnotic experiment, unacceptable though it may be to some who prefer the comfort of dogmatic theories to actual indisputable facts, stands as eloquent proof of the concept of the Unconscious and unconscious psychic activity. Modern psychology and psychological technique owe their very existence to Mesmer and to the pioneer work of great hypnotists such as Janet, Charcot, Bernheim and Liébault. These labored with suggestion therapy and trance-states to indicate that the individual in his waking state may be influenced by a multitude of ideas and feelings, of the existence of which he has not the least conscious awareness whatsoever. For example, Dr. J. Milne Bramwell, possibly the greatest living authority on hypnotism, records a vast number of Experiments that he made. A series of them were with a Miss D. She was, he says, a very ordinary girl of board school education.4 Her arithmetical powers were in keeping with this. She could do ordinary examples in multiplication and subtraction only if permitted
4. J . Milne Bramwell, Hypnotism: Its History, Practice and Theory (London: J. B. Lippincott, Co., 1903), 119–121.
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to do them with pencil and paper. Mental arithmetic was beyond her. There was no particular aptitude for appreciating the passage of time. On one particular occasion she was placed deeply under hypnosis at 3:55 p.m. Dr. Bramwell gave the suggestion that at the expiration of 5 hours and 20 minutes after she awoke she was to make a cross on a piece of paper and to write down the time she believed it to be. At about 9:15 the mother of the girl noticed that Miss D. was restless. Five minutes later the girl wrote rapidly on a piece of paper “20 minutes past 9.” 5 The French psychologist Delboeuf made innumerable similar experiments to this one many years before with similar satisfactory results.6 These and a host of like experiments seem to indicate that the subliminal consciousness or the Unconscious, or any other name that you may prefer to use for this dark hidden side of one’s being, possesses a remarkable time sense. Or else that it can calculate and function totally in independence of what consciously we think and do. If suggestions implanted in the mind from without may so affect the individual, may it not be also that from within the psyche there may be evolved a certain content the effect of which may not be too dissimilar to post-hypnotic suggestions? It is on this hypothesis that Freud and others have labored at great length. And it is this hypothesis that they have proved. Just as human physiology is based upon universal principles, so also it seems is human psychology. In the collective universal sense, we are confronted then with what Plato would have called the world of Ideas, and with what the very eminent psychologist C. G. Jung has chosen to call the Collective Unconscious. This postulate is not a matter of speculation nor a necessity imposed upon our thinking by any philosophical dialectic. It is a matter of everyday clinical experience. Symbols and ideas and inspirations charged with exuberance and vitality appear constantly in dreams, and influence the personality in a profound and lasting way. When all the superfluities and personal aspects are explained or analyzed away, these are seen to belong wholly 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid., 116–119.
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or in part to that mythological world in which the ancients lived. This same world of the Unconscious still lives in each one of us, albeit deeply buried. It is the world of universals which Jung has named the Collective Unconscious—that which all men have in common and share, unknown to themselves, with each other. He defines it more particularly in these terms: “As a common human heritage it transcends all differences of culture and consciousness and does not consist merely of contents capable of becoming conscious, but of latent dispositions towards identical reactions. Thus the fact of the collective unconscious is simply the psychic expression of brain-structure irrespective of all racial differences. By its means can be explained the analogy, going even as far as identity, between various myth-themes and symbols, and the possibility of human understanding in general. The various lines of psychic development start from one common stock whose roots reach back into the past. Here too lies the psychological parallelism with animals.” 7 It is this world too, or this psychological principle, which Synesius or our mediaeval forger has termed the Mercury of the Wise, or the Soul of the World. Moreover, this same text gives us such a definition of the alchemical art as to indicate beyond the possibility of doubt that no chemical interpretation can be sought. Assuming the reality or tangibility of the First homogeneous Matter which is to be coagulated after purification into the so-called Philosopher’s Stone, what then is the object of alchemy? “Consider what Geber sayes,” counsels our text, “that our Art consists not in the multitude of several things, because the Mercury is but one only thing, that is to say, one only stone wherein consists the whole Magistery; to which thou shalt not add any strange thing, save that in the preparation thereof thou shalt take away from it whatsoever is superfluous, by reason that in this matter, all things requisite to this Art are contained.” 8
7. R ichard Wilhelm, The Secret of the Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Life (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1962), 83–84. 8. See page 35.
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The philosophical meaning is indisputable. Since all particulars spring from, or are contained in the Universals, or since the physical world is a falling away from the reality of God but is nevertheless contained in God, all we have to do is to eliminate the superfluities, the unrealities, in order to become aware of Reality. Looking at it again from another viewpoint, the sole object required by the art is the latent root of consciousness, using this term in its widest sense as the all-inclusive Self, and this is possessed by every man and woman alike. Therein are contained in potentiality all the factors and instruments necessary to perfection. Furthermore, Synesius says, “Know, that the Quintessence and the hidden thing of our stone is nothing else than our viscous, celestial and glorious soul drawn by our magistery out of its mine.” In modern clinical psychology, if the analysand would recover his mental and physical well-being and live healthily and sanely, the deeper levels of his own being must be recognized and expressed. Thus the value of attention to dreams, which are the spontaneous activities and workings of the unconscious aspect of the psyche. To live wholly and completely we must take cognizance of the Unconscious, and admit of the validity of its existence together with the rational superficial side of us. We must accept the emotional and feeling side of us as well. It is this part of us which modern life tends to make us repress, inhibit and forget from childhood on. But this cannot be. It is an unrighteous condition of things. For our very being is then disrupted and torn too terribly asunder by such a deliberate denial to be endured. Our lives become sterile and insignificant. All ease and meaning and beauty in life vanish in the same measure as integrity is lost. And this psychic affliction is responsible for the vast increase today of ill-health and neurotic manifestation, both physical and mental. By resurrecting this shadow side of us—which alas it seems to have become when actually it is the Light world of surpassing brilliance and divine beauty—and letting our smaller selves, our superficial egos, be immersed or baptized in that mystical sea of the Wise, then are we restored and made whole. Such is the elixir of life—the rediscovery of the operation of natural law in the inner spiritual world, the recovery of a hitherto lost part of ourselves. It consists in the “extraction of our
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celestial and glorious soul from its mine.” That is the terminology of Synesius. Should we attempt a translation of the “glorious and viscous soul” that he speaks of into the terminology of the Jungian psychology we have more than interesting parallels. In Jung’s book Modern Man in Search of a Soul there is a very important and significant essay “Postulates of Analytical Psychology.” In that essay he makes some statements about the Unconscious which, in time to come, may be considered as classical definitions. For my purpose here, they are illuminating, giving us some idea of what it is that we are to excavate from our alchemical mine. In that book, Jung writes: “While consciousness is intensive and concentrated, it is transient and is directed upon the immediate field of attention; moreover, it has access only to material that represents one individual’s experience, stretching over a few decades … It (the Unconscious) is not as concentrated and intensive, but shades off into obscurity; it is highly extensive and can juxtapose the most heterogeneous elements in the most paradoxical way. More than this, it contains, besides an indeterminable number of subliminal perceptions, an immense fund of accumulated inheritance-factors left by one generation of men after another, whose mere existence marks a step in the differentiation of the species. If it were permissible to personify the Unconscious, we might call it a collective human being combining the characteristics of both sexes, transcending youth and age, birth and death, and, from having at his command a human experience of one or two million years, almost immortal.” 9 To have discovered a “being” such as this within one’s heart would be an event of supreme and paramount significance in any individual’s life. It is a concept enough to inspire us with an entirely new vision of existence. It is a vision of the whole of the universe, making possible a full and unconditioned acceptance of, and compliance with, the eternal laws of life which after all are the laws of the Unconscious. This is in its widest sense the Philosopher’s Stone. Man is glorified by the integration of the personality into one entire unit during some 9. C arl G. Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul, trans. W. S. Dell and C. F. Baynes (New York: Harcourt, nd.), 186. First published in 1933.
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psychic process in which the ego gradually becomes reconciled to and united with its dynamic stem and root, the Unconscious or the Soul of the World. And his every psychic principle, permeated anew with life and vitality, perfected through free and complete expression of its own innate superior wisdom, is made golden and glowing like some rare psychic jewel. The magnetic emanations so to speak, issuing from such an individual, become purified and engender themselves anew. Their colors, to the sensitive able to feel and perceive them, become alive and flashing, capable of exerting powerful effects on whomsoever and whatsoever is brought into vital contact with them. It is this conception, briefly, rather than chemistry, which underlies, I think, the willful deliberate obscurantism of alchemy.
In this newly rediscovered text, famed occultist Israel Regardie sheds light on the psychological/spiritual meaning behind the symbols and m...
Published on Feb 10, 2015
In this newly rediscovered text, famed occultist Israel Regardie sheds light on the psychological/spiritual meaning behind the symbols and m...